A day for the loved and lost

Elsa

This is Elsa, our beloved baby kitten, who will move in with us in the near future. She is adorable, playful, happy, and loves cuddling. She hasn’t been around long in this life and because of geographical distance I haven’t been able to see her that much yet, but I still love her.

As most of my friends and family know, I also have a deep love for all life. I love and care for all animals. I cry for them, I pray for them, and I fight for them. The last time I ate meat was more than 11 years ago, and in a few weeks I have been vegan for 7 years. 7 beautiful years of living my truth, expressing my compassion and love for life every single day. 7 years of doing my best to not hurt anyone, human or non-human alike.

Today is World Animal Day, and I want this day to be a celebration, a tribute, to all animals loved and lost, as well as to those animals who never got to feel even the tiniest bit of love from anyone during their short lives, before they ended up on our plates, on our bodies or as part of our furniture. I want this day to be a happy day for our furry family members, like little Elsa, but I also want this day to be a remembrance of all those who have suffered to satisfy our selfish desires.

I want this to be a day of love for every non-human out there.

Do I ever have the right to decide that it’s time for someone’s life to end?

Philippines has a big problem with stray dogs and cats. You can see them walking around pretty much anywhere you go, mostly malnourished and dirty, sometimes sick or wounded. My empathy for these animals is of course huge, all I wanted to do when seeing them was to take them all in, feed them, bathe them, give them medicine for their problems and somewhere safe to rest. All I wanted to was to give them a loving home, but I couldn’t.

One of the dogs we saw was in worse shape than all the others; I have never before seen an animal that look like it’s suffering that much. The fur was mostly gone and the skin filled with rashes and wounds, he stood for hours in the same spot without moving, and worst of all; someone had put a metal chain so tightly around his neck that it created an infected wound and most likely limited his breathing. Just watching him was painful, imagining the suffering he must go through every day, every moment.

R made a decision to have him euthanized to end his suffering. He called a veterinarian, who after some talking agreed to come for free if we would just pay for the medicine injection. It took some hours before they came, but the dog was still standing in the exact spot where we had left him.

Watching them catch him and give him the first injection to put him to sleep was painful. Already before they caught him, he knew that something was going on, so he got angry and started moving away from them. His scream when he was caught and given the first injection in his thigh was heartbreaking. I had expected a painless death to end his life full of suffering, but he was in such bad condition that this small injection tore his skin and caused him pain. I couldn’t watch, and I couldn’t help crying. I was wondering if this really was the right thing to do, did we really have the right to decide for this poor creature that his life was over and this was the way he was going to die?

In a little while, which felt like an eternity, everything grew quiet. Finally I dared to go closer and look at him. He was sleeping, his chest slowly raising and lowering; peace. The veterinary assistant prepared the injection that would go into the cardiac muscle (the heart), and once it was given the dog’s legs moved for the last time before everything was over.

Death had come. Was it better? I’ve thought about it so many times afterwards, praying that he is now in a better place. A place where he can run around without pain, a place where he never has to be hungry, a place where no one will deliberately cause him pain. Do I have the right to decide when it’s better for someone to die than to go on living, even though this someone is a dog? I don’t really know. I live after the premise that we don’t have the right to take someone’s life, or use someone, for our own purposes. But how about taking someone’s life to end their suffering? Do I have the right to take such a position of power, even if I use this power for what I believe is the best for that living being?

This dog, who lived his whole life without a name, without love, without anyone caring for him even the tiniest bit, has gotten a special place in my mind and in my heart. I don’t think I will ever forget him, and I don’t either think that I want to.

R.I.P.

Cuteness overload

One of the pigs at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary recently gave birth to eight adorable little miracles. The pictures and videos of these little piglets on the Happily Ever Esther Facebook-page just makes me smile;

Happily Ever Esther piglets

Picture borrowed from the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary Facebook-page

These piglets could have been born into such a different life. They could have been born to a life as products, as pieces on our plates once they had grown large enough. Instead they were born into freedom, into a life where they will be seen for the individuals that they are, into a life that gives them what they deserve.

It’s places like these sanctuaries that recreates my hope in humanity, my hope in the future. My hope that one day we will truly understand. That one day we will get there.

In loving memory

Today is World Animal Day, a day to remember all the animals in our world; those we call our friends as well as those who have fallen victim for our use in any form.

In several different cities around Finland, Animalia’s local groups organize events where people can light candles in memory of the four million animals that are killed for their fur here every year. Here in Helsinki the event will be held in Kaisaniemi park between 6 and 8 pm. If you have the possibility, feel free to join.

candle

I will not be able to go to the event, but I have lit a candle here in my home in memory of all the animals that have suffered and died for our sake. They deserve at least that.

I hope that this could be a day when we reconsider our relationship towards animals, not just towards the animals we keep as pets, but towards the animals that spend their lives in captivity – for example on factory farms, fur farms, zoos and in laboratories – as well.

Focusing on the wrong things

“The animal welfare act doesn’t question the use of animals, or give any criteria for the use of them. We have more laws concerning animals than ever before, and at the same we use more animals than ever before. As Gary Francione has summarized, we use a huge amount of time and money to come up with the right solutions to wrong deeds. From the animals point of view legislation is going to be inefficient as long as it is focused on the wrong things already from the start.”

Birgitta Wahlberg, Animalia-magazine 3/2014
(freely translated from Finnish)

The problem with factory farming is not the individual cases of abuse

When I stood in the city one afternoon several years ago informing people about the conditions of pigs raised for food as a part of an ongoing campaign, one person came up to me and said something like “That’s nothing weird. That’s how it looks like” (pictures in the campaign included pigs living in dirt and sometimes even together with dead friends, wounded pigs etc.). The attitude of the person commenting was that this is normal and that there is nothing we can do about it, so we shouldn’t talk about it or even care.

Is it not exactly this that is the problem? It’s so usual that the animals are suffering that no one reacts anymore, it’s just “normal” and “okay”.

The issue is bigger than just farmers treating their animals badly, there is a problem in the whole system. Raising animals is not simply raising animals, so to speak. It’s an industry where living creatures are held and slaughtered on assembly lines like they were products. There’s no time, no space, no resources for well-being among the animals in an industry like the animal industry today (I don’t believe animals can be happy in any kind of situation where they are used for our purposes, but that’s another story). Animal “products” are cheap, even though the cost of production may not be, and people consume more and more of certain products, which leads to a faster and faster spinning industry. It’s not good for anyone’s well-being – not ours, not the animals’, not the nature’s. Something has to change.

This is one reason why I’m an activist. “Activist” may sound very ugly in some people’s ears, but that does not make me want to stop being one. I’m not ashamed. Prejudices are not a reason to stop fighting for things you believe in. I don’t want to live my life just watching the world get darker, if there’s something I can do to change this world to the better, I will fight to do it. I hope you will too, whatever it is that you believe in.

“Do you feel sorry for them?”

As I was having lunch with some of my work mates, they asked me – as so many times before – about my food and what it contains. One of them thought it contained fish, so I told her that I don’t eat fish. Her response was “Why? Do you feel sorry for them?”. I’m not really fluent enough in Finnish to properly explain to her my reasons for being vegan (which I have to admit frustrates me), but I told her that my decision doesn’t have to do with feeling sorry for someone, because that’s not what it’s all about.

This question, “Do you feel sorry for the animals?”, comes up quite often when you tell someone that you are vegetarian or vegan. It is a legitimate question, because you could choose not to eat animals just because you feel sorry for them, but for me – and for most other vegans out there – the choice is about something much deeper than just pity for the animals that get hurt. It’s about respect for them and their lives, not simply their right to be alive, but their right to a good life.

Seeing vegetarians and vegans as just people feeling pity for animals reduce the message that lies behind the choice to not consume them or their secretions, since that would mean you base your choices on emotion rather than rational thinking. Of course there are emotions involved – realizing how animals have to suffer every day for our selfish purposes can be very painful – but the choice to go vegan is usually based on a lot of research, discussions and rational thinking. It’s a choice you make because you come to the conclusion that not consuming animals or their secretions (of which you actually have no nutritional requirement) is the most compassionate way to live; not a decision based on naive emotions.